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Gold Prices Climb as US Consumer Prices Rise in April, Inflation Remains Muted

Consumer prices in April rose 0.3% in April, in line with market expectations following a 0.4% gain in March. Annually, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was slightly below expectations. Inflation pressure remains tame for the time being.

Key Takeaways

  • The CPI rose 0.3% in April, driven by rising costs in gasoline, health care, and rent.
  • Annually, the CPI rose 2% vs. 2.1% expected for the 12 months through April.
  • The data supports the ability of the Federal Reserve to leave interest rates unchanged.

The so-called core-CPI which excludes the volatile components of food and energy rose 0.1% with apparel prices falling for the second month in a row. Core-CPI has risen by this margin for three straight months.

Gasoline prices rose 5.7% in April, and comprised more than two-thirds of the jump in CPI after rising 6.5% in March. Food prices dropped -0.1% after a 0.3% gain in March. Food consumed at home fell by 0.5%, but consumers experienced higher rent costs with a 0.3% gain in owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence, the same as the month before.

Health care costs rose 0.3%, matching the gain seen in March. Apparel costs fell by 0.8%, and saw an even bigger drop of 1.9% in March, the biggest drop since 1949. Used motor vehicle prices fell 1.3%, the third straight month of decline. New vehicles rose by 0.1% after a 0.4% gain the month prior, and airfare, household furnishings, and tobacco all saw decreases in price.

PCE Index

The Fed tracks the core-Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index as its main measure of inflation, and has a target inflation of 2%. The April PCE is due for release later this month – core-PCE in March indicated a 1.6% annual increase, the smallest gain in over a year after climbing 1.7%  the month prior.

Federal Reserve officials elected recently to hold off on introducing further rate hikes after raising interest rates four times in 2018. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stated that recent data pointing to weak inflation pressure “may be transient”, indicating that the central bank aims to wait for concrete evidence of weak inflation before taking action as per the cautious approach announced in Q1.

Expert Outlook

Avery Shenfeld, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said that the thetame inflation pressure could lead to dovish Fed officials releasing statements in the media soon, although added that the current data is unlikely to change the current stance on neutral monetary policy.

“The majority on the Fed will still in our view be content with a stand pat stance, focussed on growth and labour market tightness as reasons to expect inflation to nudge higher again,” he said. “Little market reaction likely to the small miss vs. expectations.”

Market Reaction

Spot gold has climbed following the news, trading up 0.24% at $1,286.56/oz with a high of $1,288.66/oz and a low of $1,283.40/oz. However, momentum has struggled to cause the $1,290 breakthrough that traders are watching for.

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